I went into the Run for the Dream half marathon as last years overall female winner.  It was the race I broke the tape at for the first time last year.  This year despite being about a minute faster I was the 3rd woman to cross the finish line. 

I guess that must be how Shalane felt after Boston.  She ran a personal best (for me it was a personal best on the course…not half PR) but there were faster people that showed up that day.  Granted I didn’t have the weight of the US running community on my shoulders but unless you’re Jeptoo then chances are there are faster people then you.  They can show up to any race.  I won’t lie that it was hard to experience that first hand but every race teaches you something.  I still had an incredible time and I think Run for the Dream is one of the best and most well organized races I add to my schedule every year.

Tim drove me to the starting line and we had a lot of extra time.  (This barely ever happens). I chatted with several people and by the time I knew it, I found myself runderwear ready and it was time to race.

timandi1

The race started and I found myself immediately third female overall.  I was running faster then I was comfortable at (and I knew there were a ton of hills towards the second half of the course).  My first mile I ran with a few males and we chatted a bit.  When I hit the mile 1 at 6:14 all I could think was that was dumb real dumb.

elevationchart

Course elevation chart from LOLZ garmin

After the first mile, hills began and I was also dropped by everyone around.  By the second mile I had a clearing of .25 miles in front of me and .25 miles after me.  I was running in a half mile space of no mans land the entire time.  (A couple of spectators even said “how unfortunate”. It was okay on the road because I could see people up ahead as well as spectators…but unfortunately that was not the case on the trails and woods.

Mile 2 I hit at 6:29 and mile 3 at 6:26.  I was already feeling the effects of the hills and it didn’t help that I was running all by myself. To me it felt like my own personal tempo run.  It became mentally challenging for the last 10 miles.  It’s never good when you break up a half marathon as the first 5k and the last 10 miles.

Until around mile 5 we were on pavement.  It was somewhere between mile 5 and 6 that we went into some trails.  They changed the course a bit so when I headed down the trails, I immediately fell even more into my own zone.  I went close to 2 miles without seeing a single other person (not a volunteer nor another racer).  The only reason I knew I was going the right way was because of the mile markers.

I found myself needing a forever alone meme. It was so mentally hard to push myself with no spectators and no other racers in sight.  Each water stop gave me a burst of excitement.  I thought about clever things to say at each one.  (I forgot about 90% of them before getting to a water stop).

I just kept trying to tick off the miles.  I found myself looking at my watch a lot more than usual.  I failed to mention that in these woods was the biggest hill.  Mile 9 hit 6:59 and I was going into cardiac arrest climbing up the hills.  I was able to see a spectator and volunteer at the top of the largest hill.  He said good job and the water stop was coming up.  I dry heaved thank you.  I think I could probably have gotten a role as Darth Vader’s twin.

Sadly that water stop didn’t come until mile 10.  I found the human interaction of the water stop the best of anything.  It provided me with Gatorade, some side fives and quick banter.

Mile 11 and mile 12 I spent just focusing towards the end.  Around mile 12, I noticed another female beginning to catch me.  Before entering the track myself, I heard them announce the overall female winner.  You could hear the announcer from about mile 11.5 onward.  That was about 10 minutes of wishing I was laying down on the track past the finish line.

runforthedreamhalftrack

Finally we entered the track for the final 400.  If you have ever run a half marathon where the final 400 is on track…then you understand the pain.  I saw the female catching me…all I could think was…I’ve just run close to 12 miles alone and I’m going to lose a place in the last 400.  I dropped the last 400 at 5:38 pace.

runforthedreamhalf

I was so proud to cross the finish line as third woman overall.  I was then surprisingly greeted by both my mom and dad as well as Tim.

myparentsandi

Cliff notes:

It was mentally tough to accept that faster people showed up that day.  My time was a minute faster then last year but I was higher in places.  I’m not upset and I think I ran an honest race.  It was certainly a new experience to race close to 12 miles by yourself and 6 miles not even seeing anyone else.  Every race has a new experience though.  No more half marathons until (probably)Rock and Roll VA Beach August 31st.  Time to get these ostrich legs a higher turnover.

The Run for the Dream half marathon is one of my favorites .  It has been well organized every time I’ve run it (3 our of 4 years it’s been held).  (No they didn’t pay me to say that).

Questions for you:

Have you ever raced by yourself?

What is the hardest course you’ve run?

This half marathon is a pretty strong contender.  The Flower City half marathon or Turning Stone half marathon (both in NY) are also not pancake flat.